Gulfshore Insurance > Gulfshore Blog > Condo Associations

8ac000d4-1aab-4dbe-a7a3-2e992c8f5dc8As temperatures heat up and our northern friends begin to head home, now is a great time to make sure your properties are prepared for the rest of 2017. Here are a few checklist items you should consider handling in the off season:

Archive Association Records
Off season is a great time to review an association’s records, clean up files, and organize everything so that if the auditor comes to do their fieldwork on site at your association, they’ll have everything and can work through the process quickly and efficiently.

Walk the Grounds
Take a Walk. Spring is a great time to schedule landscape walks and maintenance walks with your vendors. Look at what kind of landscape needs you might have for next season. There may be areas that need maintenance. Entry ways, stoops, sidewalks, etc. should all be looked at if they are the association’s responsibility.

Dive into Pool Maintenance
Now is a great time to make sure the pool and its surrounding areas are in good condition. Check the pipes and waterlines to make sure there are no leaks. And if the deck needs to be sealed and pressure cleaned, now would be a good time to take care of that. It’s also a good time to reseal any caulking, check for loose tiles, and take a good look at the pool filters and the pump room, among other areas.

Update Your Disaster Preparedness Plan
Remember, Hurricane Season in Florida begins on June 1st. This time of year, you should review and update your disaster preparedness plans. One of the key components to your disaster preparedness plan is to make sure all of the seasonal residents in the association have secured their units before they leave for summer. Make sure to update your disaster preparedness plan with plenty of time to ensure you’re able to communicate updates to every owner while you have max occupancy in your association.

Get Your Owners On Board
Speaking of inspiring your owners to do a little spring cleaning of their own, spring is a great time to send a newsletter out to your community reminding them to clean up any compliance issues that have piled up over the winter season. Generally, you’ll notice these issues when you’re doing the maintenance walks mentioned above.

Plan for the Fall
Always be proactive and be a season or two ahead. Now is a good time to make sure your annual preventative maintenance calendar for 2018 is up to date. Your critical systems, your safety and fire systems, your HVAC systems and your emergency generator should all be on the calendar. Nail those things down now.

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As hurricane season approaches, there are key items that Association Boards of Directors, Management, and residents need to be prepared for. The most important thing you can do in preparation for hurricane season is to have a plan. Every association in Florida, particularly those along the coastline and in flood or evacuation zones, should create a hurricane preparedness plan and distribute it to residents. In order to create a comprehensive plan, we recommend the following:

  1. Know your exposure: It’s important to understand the risk associated with your community. Flood elevation, vulnerability to storm surge, and potential for power loss should all be considered.
  2. Identify important contacts: Your plan should include contact information for local law enforcement, fire rescue, hospitals, schools, shelters, and utilities.
  3. Have supplies: Put together a basic supply kit. The most common items can become hard to come by before and after a disaster.
  4. Most Importantly, Prepare: While each Association has different needs, it is important to have a detailed preparation plan that it specific to your community. As a storm approaches, actions such as cutting back trees, clearing debris, securing common elements, and shuttering the windows of common facilities may need to be taken. Know exactly what each task is and when it needs to be completed.

Please download our comprehensive Hurricane Resource Guide for information for important checklists and information regarding storm preparedness.

Have you been wondering what you can expect in 2017?  We’re breaking down what you can anticipate next year as you begin the budget planning process.

Property/Hazard Insurance Rates:

  • The trend of decreasing property rates began in 2014, continued through 2015, and even into 2016 across the board with a few exceptions (e.g. older, coastal, unprotected, no updates, etc.). The current competitive market is due to a number of favorable factors: competition with multiple new insurance markets entering Florida; record amounts of capital flowing into the insurance market; and lack of tropical storm/hurricane activity or catastrophes. Certainly, this trend cannot continue, or can it? While the competition and lack of storms is favorable for continued downward rate pressures, at this time, it is fair to say that while there is still the chance for some additional savings/decreased property premiums, it appears that it is more likely we will see the Florida property market begin to stabilize or even see some pressure for small increases.
  • Our recommendation at this time would be to budget flat to 5% for rates, and between flat and 5% for appraisal increases. For more conservative budgeting, we recommend using close to 10% for the property insurance overall premium increase due to the combination of rate pressure and inflation for construction/replacement cost appraisals.

 

Ancillary Coverage (General Liability, Umbrella, D&O):

  • We expect these lines of coverage to remain relatively “flat” in regards to future rate increases. The exception may be General Liability, as some carriers have seen increases of 10% or more in certain cases. Our recommendation would be to budget between 0 to 5% as a blended increase for these three lines of business.

 

Appraisals for Insurance Replacement Costs:

  • Currently, the trend on appraisals has been a bit confusing. We have seen several associations with recent appraisals that have actually decreased year over year. Granted, these were very small decreases. We don’t necessarily view this as a trend that we will witness across the board. We expect to see continued moderate increases in the low single digits. We recommend using 5% as an expected appraisal change in 2017.

 

Citizens Rate Increases:

  • According the Citizens website, non-weather water-related losses have resulted in Citizens’ policyholders in South Florida expecting to see annual rate hikes approaching 10% in 2017 and for years to come. Citizens is required by law to recommend rates that are actuarially sound, while complying with a legislative glide path that caps rate increases at 10%, excluding coverage changes and surcharges.  Based upon historical rates, if you are still with Citizens, you can very likely expect and should budget 10% for rate increases.

 

Flood Insurance Rates:

  • In last year’s budget projections, we provided an update to the major policy fee changes that took effect in April 2015. There was an adjustment again in 2016 that will impact overall premiums, although, not nearly as much as the 2015 changes.  The chart below shows the assessment and Federal Policy Fee changes and does not include rate increases for 2017.

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  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is $24 billion in debt, which is driving bipartisan consensus among legislators that something needs to be done to protect taxpayers from any further burden. They are working on finding ways to accomplish this by getting the private market more involved. Robert Hartwig, President of the Insurance Information Institute, says the industry’s abundance of traditional and alternative capital, and a recent history of very large amounts of catastrophe risk being transferred to private reinsurers and capital markets from state-run insurers, such as Citizens, are driving private-sector interest in Flood. One potential concern with greater private sector involvement is adverse selection. If the private market comes in and writes NFIP risks it believes could be profitable, the NFIP may be left with the least favorable policies, putting taxpayers “in a more difficult spot than they are now.” Ultimately, it’s too early to tell which direction legislators may go and what the NFIP will look like come October 2017.
  • While flood insurance rates appear to be trending upwards due to inadequate pricing on the higher risk/subsidized properties with the NFIP, Private Flood markets are beginning to offer premium savings for the right risks. We will be sure to discuss this option with you as the opportunities become available.

 

Reinsurance Rates:

  • Since property insurance premium cost is affected +/- by the current terms, conditions, and pricing that primary insurance companies pay for their reinsurance programs, it is always a good idea to dig a little deeper into what is happening with the projected costs of reinsurance.
  • According to Swiss Re Chief Underwriting Officer, the bottom of the soft market is very close or already here. The reinsurance market has been in a softening phase for quite some time now. Prices in the global reinsurance market have been deteriorating for several years.

 

Summary:

It is fair to say that while there is still the chance for some additional savings/decreased property premiums, it appears that it is more likely that the Florida property market will begin to stabilize or even start to see some pressure for small increases sometime in 2017.

There are many factors that can affect the overall insurance costs for your unique association. We understand this task of budgeting can be a bit confusing and sometimes even overwhelming, that is why we are here to help you review your current insurance program and work with you to develop an educated budget for 2017.

Following the recent devastation and flooding in Louisiana over the past few weeks, many are now facing the arduous task of removing debris from their properties and submitting insurance claims. Believe it or not, “debris” accounts for roughly 27% of the total cost of a disaster. Yet, debris management remains one of the most overlooked and least-planned-for components of disaster response and recovery.

FEMA recently issued a bulletin that outlines a policyholder’s responsibilities in the event of a loss. The Fact Sheet provided by FEMA details how you should report a flood claim; what to document in the aftermath of a disaster; how to properly document and dispose of debris/damaged property; where to get help; and more.

Please keep in mind, there are specific responsibilities that need to be followed in the event of a loss to ensure proper payment of claims.

Debris Removal Guidelines

 

Click here to view the full memorandum from FEMA. Our in-house staff of experienced flood insurance professionals is available to handle your questions and provide guidance.

Alligator LiabilityAnyone who has ever lived in Florida knows that alligators are a pervasive feature in communities throughout the state. Florida is alligator country. There are 1.3 million wild alligators. That is roughly one for every 15 residents. Alligators may occur anywhere there is water—lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, swamps, and even man-made canals. Although almost exclusively a fresh-water species, they have been found in brackish and salt waters.

The recent tragic incident involving a young child at a Florida theme park has raised questions about whether associations are responsible for warning residents about the possible danger of alligators.

Legal experts have commented that the association, as land owner, could be held liable and negligent for allowing licensees and invitees to enter an area where risk of injury by a dangerous condition is foreseeable and not warning those individuals of that danger.

If your association knows of alligators on the premises, reasonable precautions should be taken in concert with advice from the association’s legal counsel and its insurers. Reasonable precautions might include, among other things, the posting of signs warning of the possible presence of alligators. Consideration might also be given to addressing other dangerous animals that might inhabit the property, such as poisonous snakes. In light of recent tragic events involving gators, preventative actions could not only prove to be vital in the control of the risk, but also a prudent measure in public opinion. There is no current mandate for signage nor do liability policies currently contain a condition that would exclude coverage should a claim of this nature occur. However, insurance policies and terms are constantly evolving. Given recent events, it would not be surprising to see insurance carriers address this exposure in the future. At present, the decision falls on the Board to decide whether action or inaction best protects the entire community.

Associations can contact the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s nuisance alligator program for removal of alligators that might constitute a nuisance or pose a threat. The nuisance alligator hotline can be reached at 866-FWC-GATOR, and more information about the program is available online at www.myfwc.com.


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